[LAU] DAWs and licensing Was: Symphony of love illusive

Brent Busby brent at keycorner.org
Sun Feb 14 21:05:07 CET 2021

This is just touching on a few of your points from this and from 
previous messages...

On Sun, 14 Feb 2021, Sam Kuper wrote:

> I was more productive using an old 1/2" 16-track, a Seck 1882 or a Ramsa
> DA-7, and a few multi-FX rack units, than I was after switching to
> proprietary software!

For many reasons, I'm still mostly using hardware even now (and yes, I 
know that's a choice).  I remember back in Ardour's 1.x-2.x days, the 
Ardour web site used to say something like that Ardour was still 
developing, and was currently not much better than a stack of ADAT 
recorders.  Well, I still record and produce about the same way I did in 
1989 (but with more stuff now), so I thought, wow, that's all I need 
Ardour to do, be like a stack of ADAT recorders!  I've been happy with 
it ever since, even now that it's become a whole lot better than a stack 
of ADAT recorders.

As far as productivity goes though, I've found that's actually related 
more to how much stuff (hardware and software) there is to setup in your 
studio at the beginning of a session, rather than whether it's 
proprietary or not.  (Projects like NSM help here, though I still 
haven't started using its session management as much as I should.) 
_Most_ software and physical equipment will start up with _most_ of its 
settings either where you last left them, or at reasonable defaults. 
The devil is in the "most" part...

_Some_ software needs you to spend time setting things up at the start 
of your session.  _Some_ equipment can't be powered on subsequent to or 
simultaneous with certain other equipment.  _Some_ equipment has 
settings that don't get remembered at power-up, and sometimes this is 
even true in equipment that actually does persistently keep most of the 
other settings on the same device -- but not all the settings, leaving a 
few settings that still need to be set every time that device is powered 
on.  The more stuff (hardware and software) you use in your studio, the 
more of this "some" stuff you'll have in your startup routine, stuff 
that doesn't _quite_ have everything ready to go when you start it, or 
needs to have something else turned on first before you can power it up.

All of this conspires to make the dream of hitting a big master power 
switch and double-clicking an icon to get started an impossible fantasy, 
replaced instead with an initialization procedure that resembles 
preparing for a rocket launch to the moon, complete with crew health 
check and a final countdown as we check through all equipment and make 
sure all systems are go for liftoff.  And dude, you just wanted to jam, 
ok?  By the time you get done, you're more in the frame of mind to go 
off in a corner and write something clever in Perl.  The artistic moment 
is lost (along with about 45 minutes of your life).  I find this is true 
not just with proprietary software, but any studio that just has a lot 
of stuff in it -- any kind of stuff.  I sometimes have fond memories of 
an ESQ-1, a Mirage, an RX7 drum machine, and a 4-track tape recorder, 
maybe a delay pedal on an effects loop.  So primitive, so easy to get 
stuff done on...and no rediculous setup ritual that takes over half an 
hour and leaves you feeling like a rocket scientist.

> These days, I see buying proprietary music software as being a bit like
> hiring a piece of boutique audio hardware.  If you truly need it for
> that project, it might be indispensable; but you'd better hope you don't
> need it again in a few years' time because it might be unavailable.  So,
> it's always wise to look for a more sustainable solution first;
> proprietary software, like boutique unobtainium, should be a last
> resort.

My studio is all about boutique unobtainium.  :)

> Personally, the only pieces of proprietary music software that I still
> find tempting are Ableton Live and RME TotalMix.  But I'm hoping I can
> assemble just enough libre or DIY workarounds to be able to do without
> them, until comparable (or better!) libre alternatives emerge.

Have you tried hdspmixer?  It's a partial clone of TotalMix, but I don't 
think it works with all RME products.  It works very well with my 
Multiface II though.

Going back to something you said in an earlier message about having to 
surrender Wavelab and other software from Windows:  I find that Wine 
actually does surprisingly well with that sort of thing, especially 
lately.  The days when Wine could barely run WIN16 Solitaire are long 
gone.  These days, there is a whole cult of people who run very 
demanding first person shooter games with it, hardware-accelerated 3D 
and all.  It will see your local ALSA MIDI devices and display them in 
the Windows app as though it were running native on your desktop.

My gripe with Wine for music is that there is still no MIDI support for 
WIN16 (Windows 3.1) programs.  I have a lot of very old equipment, and 
some of it actually is supported by ancient WIN16 programs.  I'm sure 
the developers are concentrating on what most users want, and that's 
probably not MIDI support for Windows 3.1 stuff.

Anyway, I generally agree:  If I were to base my studio around 
proprietary software on a proprietary OS, that would be just one more 
thing that I'd be depending on keeping functional over time, in addition 
to all the vintage equipment.  At least the gear has soul, but I'm 
pretty sure that Windows has never had one.

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